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St.Johnstone earn 1-1 draw but fall at the first hurdle 3-1 on aggregate

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With a two goal deficit to claw back from the first leg, St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas gave fit again hitman Gregory Tade a starting debut alongside home debutant Nigel Hasselbaink. Eskisehirspor made two changes from the last match with Karadeniz and Malecki making way for Rodrigo Tello and Burhan Eser.

St Johnstone knowing the massive task in front of them, started strongly and with the visitors having no need to attack and leave themselves open at the back had plenty of possession early on, but their night almost turned sour on fifteen minutes as a seemingly harmless cross from the left appeared to miss everyone and with the Perth rearguard sleeping Veysel Sari ghosted round the back of Davidson to connect but fortunately goalkeeper Mannis was switched on and saved low to his right.

Undaunted the Perth outfit didn’t panic and manager Lomas made some positional changes, swapping Hasselbaink and moving Craig to his more accustomed position on the left which sealed the holes that Putok had started to exploit and allowed Hasselbaink to support Tade a bit quicker.

The SPL side pressed for the breakthrough they needed and with Tade terrorising the Eses backline they slowly started to dominate their cash laden Super Lige opponents.

On 35 minutes the roof was raised at McDiarmid Park as Callum Davidson broke down the left to cross and with a slight deflection it looped over goalkeeper Boffin leaving the unmarked Tade with an easy header from two yards.

McDiarmid Park was now bouncing and this transmitted to the players as Liam Craig’s whipped in free kick almost found the head of first McCracken and then Wright to bring them level on aggregate.

As the first half ended again with St Johnstone in the ascendancy it was notable that the rearguard of the Turks had started to crumble and heated arguments were on going as they walked of the pitch.

With both teams emerging unchanged at half time, an air of expectation filled the stadium and five minutes into the second half it took an excellent block by Boffin to deny Hasselbaink from close range and stop the Turks from being pulled back level.

As they had showed on the first half. Eskisehirspor have the ability to be dangerous at anytime and on 52 minutes they all but killed the tie as former Celtic man Diomansy Kamara easily stepped passed Miller and whipped the ball across the face of goal where it fell to Sari who knocked it in with ease.

A blow to the gut for an impressive St Johnstone team but even with the tie seemingly dead they still attacked and could have given themselves an outside chance, but they passed up several opportunities with the best falling to Liam Craig who when set up by Hasselbaink elected to take a touch giving Boffin time to close him down and snuff out the chance.

As the game ended, there was disappointment at being knocked out of the Europa League at the first hurdle, but there was a sense of pride that an undefeated home european record was kept intact and the Perth side proved that once again they could punch above their weight.

St Johnstone: Mannus, Miller, Davidson, Cregg, Wright, McCracken, Millar, Davidson, Tade, Craig, Hasselbaink.
Subs: Tuffey, Mackay, Anderson, Higgins, Adams, May, Scobbie.

Eskisehirspor: Buffin, Sari, Dede, Cetin, Angelo, Gucer, Potuk, Zengin, Kamara, Tello, Eser.
Subs: Erdogan, Bahtiyaroglu, Guven, Kara, Malecki, Nuhui, Demirhan

Referee: Gumienny

Att: 6,023

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